Author Archives: amoyaan
– 56 –
Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
block off your senses,
meditate in silence,
release your worries,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
harmonise your inner light
and unite the world into one whole!
This is the primal union or secret embrace.
One who knows this secret
is not moved by attachment or aversion,
swayed by profit or loss,
nor touched by honour or disgrace.
Such a one is far beyond the cares of men
yet comes to hold the dearest place in their hearts.
This, therefore, is the highest state of man.
This verse begins with one of my favourite lines of the Tao Te Ching: “Those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know.”
The loudest and most confident ‘authorities’ are often the most deluded because they tend to be rigid, set in their viewpoints and ignorant of their ignorance. Those that genuinely get it are often the quietest and humblest of people. They have no need to make a show of themselves, for they have moved beyond such cares. They know the virtue of silence.
Although the Tao is within and sustains all form as its deepest essence, it cannot be seen with the outer senses and is invisible to the eye. Therefore, it is necessary to go inward to get in touch with this essence.
Lao Tzu speaks of primal union or the secret embrace, which can be achieved by sitting quietly in meditation, closing off the outer senses and settling into a peaceful experience of inner union with our source. It’s not something we can strive after and seek to acquire as we would in the outer world of form, but something we relax into with effortless ease. It melts away our tensions, dissolves our problems and unties all our knots.
This primal union is the gateway to an experience of higher consciousness, which we can then invite into every aspect of our lives; a detachment and transcendence, an overwhelming and unconditional love and acceptance of life and all the beings and circumstances we encounter. This is, as Lao Tzu suggests, the highest state available to us.
Perhaps this is the only worthy goal we can ever have for our lives. The ironic part is that it’s not a future state we can hope to achieve and move toward. We’re already there—we’re already at one with the Tao—we just have to remove the obstructions of mind and habit and realise that we already are that which we seek. It could never be any other way.
If you have enjoyed this series on the Tao Te Ching, it is now available in a collected volume in both paperback and ebook format on Amazon! Be sure to check it out.
Originally posted on The Dreamlight Fugitive:
These are interesting yet precarious times for fiction writers. Although the digital revolution has given authors an unprecedented opportunity to share their work, it has come at a price.
The landscape has changed almost beyond recognition. It’s much easier to ‘be’ a writer now. Anyone and their uncle can churn out a book and have it published on Amazon Kindle that afternoon. In spite of this, it’s actually much harder to ‘make it’ as a writer, due to complete over-saturation of the market. Something in the range of 4,000 books are being published every single day. Competition can be a good thing, but it also has its downside. What happens when a market is oversaturated? The product in question inevitably becomes devalued, and so does the supplier of that product.
I believe the devaluing of fiction started off with supermarkets and online stores such as Amazon artificially slashing the prices of books. Publishers were in many cases willing to make…
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Following directly on from my last post, The 3 Levels of Reality and the Walls of our Mental Prison.
Our projections become our ‘reality’. This is caused by mistaking our thoughts for reality. These thoughts are the building block of our constructed reality and form the walls of our mental prison. What tends to cement these walls in place is a simple law: emotion follows thought. When we think painful, negative thoughts, we automatically generate painful, negative emotions. It’s basic cause and effect.
Try it right now. Take a moment to think about something terrible. Imagine something awful happening, or tell yourself that you are a big, fat, ugly loser. Hold that thought for a moment and then see how you feel in your body. What’s your visceral response to that thought? Does your body feel good, or does it feel tight, constricted and uncomfortable? Does the thought generate a positive, happy feeling or emotion, or does it make you feel unhappy, sad or anxious?
Now, brush that off and hold a positive thought in your mind. Imagine something wonderful happening to yourself or your loved ones, and tell yourself that you are a beautiful, talented, deserving and wonderful person. Hold that picture in your mind. Now check in with your body and notice how your body responds to these positive thoughts? Can you feel a sense of loosening and relaxing? Do you feel a warm tingle, or a sense of lightness and ease? Do these thoughts generate happier and more liberating emotions and feelings?
I’m willing to bet that this demonstrates to you the incredible power of thought in creating our emotional and feeling states.
The basic equation of experience is:
Consciousness + thought = experience
Consciousness is a given. Without consciousness, which I’m here defining as the baseline awareness that is forever with us–there is nothing. Consciousness is quite obviously the foundation of our experience, the light by which everything is known to us. While pure consciousness is immutable and unchanging, clearly something is always changing because our experience is never the same from moment to moment. What changes then, is thought.
If you’re still not quite on board with this, then recall our earlier analysis of experience. We don’t, and can’t, experience anything outside of us; outside of consciousness. Everything that we experience is experienced in our own consciousness, for consciousness is the medium by which we perceive and experience, in the same way that you can’t take photographs without film in the camera (in the pre-digital age anyway!).
Our senses relay stimulus, which creates representational images in our mind; thoughts that correspond with the sensory input. Everything that we experience is a thought in our mind. It sure doesn’t feel like that, I know, but there’s no getting around it. The wall I’m staring at across the room is a wall-thought; a representation of wall created in my mind.
To further highlight the interrelationship of thought and experience, consider the fact that everyone experiences things differently. A dozen people can be sitting in the same room, doing the same thing, but each of them are going to have a different experience because each are essentially experiencing their thoughts. The objective is so easily obscured by the subjective and we all tend to buy into what are essentially mind-generated projections.
Back to the cake example—I am given cake, which I then eat. The moment I cast judgement about the cake, whether I deem it good or bad, delicious or the most disgusting baked good I’ve ever come across, I am projecting. My likes and dislikes, which are unconscious, are creating a projection about the cake, a superimposition which I then believe is real. Reality for me becomes “this cake is delicious” or “this cake is disgusting”.
New thought equals new experience
If it’s our thoughts about reality that are actually driving our experience, this implies that in order to change our experience, the quickest and most surefire way to do that is to change our thoughts. A new thought equals a new experience. Thoughts really are that powerful. A single thought can actually change the course of an entire life.
Unfortunately it’s an exhausting and labouring process having to monitor, remove or change every thought that enters our mind. That’s why the positive thinking approach, while correct on one level, isn’t offering a particularly viable solution. Trying to remove or change every thought is like trying to empty the ocean of water or change the composition of h2o. Not only is it an impossible and fruitless task, it’s an unnecessary one. There’s a far more effective way of dealing with our thoughts and projections. And that’s what I’m going to share with you next…
This is a continuation of my Jailbreak Your Mind series, which will form the basis of a self help book currently in the works! This follows on from the previous articles The problem of suffering, A mind at war and A revolutionary new understanding of experience and reality
We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.
The snake and the rope
Many years ago, so the story goes, a wandering monk arrived at a small village. Evening was creeping in and, and thirsty from his long journey, the traveller was relieved to find an old well at the edge of the village. But as he approached, eager to quench his thirst, he caught sight of a large snake sitting by the side of the well. Although it was getting dark, in the twilight he could clearly see its coiled body and upraised head. The snake, motionless, was clearly ready to strike. The monk was overcome by terror and instinctively froze on the spot. His stomach seized up in dread and he could feel beads of sweat dripping down his forehead. What was he going to do? From what he could see it was clearly one of the largest, most venomous snakes. Any sudden movement and the snake would get him.
Several long, agonising moments passed before an old man stumbled through the darkness toward the well, carrying a lantern. “What’s wrong?” he called to the monk, sensing his anxiety.
“Don’t come any closer,” the monk replied, his voice trembling. “There’s a snake!”
“Where?” the man asked. “I don’t see any snake.”
“Right there, beside the well.”
The old man took another step closer and let out a chuckle. “That’s no snake,” he said.
The monk squinted. Now the old man’s lamp was illuminating the dark, he could see that he was indeed correct. What had presumed was a snake was in fact a rope coiled around a bucket at the side of the well, the tip of the rope sticking up like the head of a snake.
This ancient Vedanta story is a metaphor for the number one problem we face in life; specifically that we aren’t seeing things as they really are. We live our lives in a twilight state, for appearances can be and are deceptive, complexity abounds, and our understanding, knowledge and perception are always limited. It’s all too easy to mistake a rope for a snake and we do this all the time.
This process is called projection or superimposition. The mind interprets reality a certain way based upon sensory input. This then becomes our reality. We slip from objective reality and inhabit a world of subjective reality. While the snake has absolutely no reality at all and is simply a misapprehension created by the mind, it is completely real to us. We fully inhabit that subjective reality, experiencing all the anxiety, distress and fear that comes with it. The snake is very much real to us until knowledge (the light of the lamp) reveals to us our error. When that happens, our subjective reality collapses in an instant. Our projection vanishes, the bubble we were inhabiting bursts and we come back to objective reality.
Which level of reality are you inhabiting?
We touched upon this in the last chapter, but it’s so important I’m going to come back to it again. Vedanta speaks of three ‘levels’ of reality.
PARAMARTHIKA — The absolute reality, the ground of existence
VYVAVAHARIKA — Empirical, objective reality; the (shared) world of objects and forms
PRATIBHASIKA — Subjective reality; the (personal) psychological world we inhabit
The first level of reality, which we haven’t touched upon so far, is called paramarthika, or the absolute reality. This is the one, unchanging factor that underlies all changing phenomena; that which allows everything to exist; the ground of reality. One of the greatest Western philosophers, Immanuel Kant, described it as the noumenon at the root of all phenomena. The noumenal contains and provides the context of the intelligible world and all its contents, yet is beyond the mind’s ability to perceive, penetrate and know. It can only be inferred by examining the nature of experience. In terms of who we are, this is the very ground of our being, the root of pure awareness; the subject.
The next level is called vyavaharika (don’t worry about the long Sanskrit names, I’m not going to test you on those!). Vyavaharika is the empirical or objective reality; the world of shapes, forms and objects. This is the tangible world we all inhabit and provides shared experience. It is, in and of itself, value neutral. Although there is pleasure and pain, light and dark, there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ until the mind assigns value to discrete experience. In our story, vyavaharika was the man approaching a well at night and encountering a bucket and rope.
The third and final level is called pratibhasika, which means subjective reality. This includes our dreams, imagination and also the level of superimposition and projection, where we filter our experience of reality and very often see what isn’t there. It’s on this level that we distort reality, either through the screen of our conditioning, likes and dislikes, beliefs or assumptions, or by our ignorance and lack of knowledge.
In the story, the travelling monk slipped into this subjective level of reality by assuming that what he saw was a vicious snake. The suffering and anxiety it caused him was very much real, but it was based on an illusion. There was never a snake there. Therefore the only way out of this problem was to break the illusion and end his ignorance. This can only be done by knowledge, by reducing the subjective back to the objective and seeing what is really there as opposed to what we think is there. The monk overcame his fear and distress by shattering the projections his mind had made.
It’s so easy to slip from objective reality, from vyavharika, into subjective, pratibhasika. It’s quite natural, too. Let’s say I’ve made a cake and I place it on the table. The reality is: there’s a cake on the table. Then I invite two friends to have a slice. They’re both eating the same cake, but one of them likes it and the other doesn’t. Whether they say “it’s a lovely cake” or “it’s horrible”, both have moved into subjective reality. One cake, yet two different realities for two different people. Then we step outdoors and the sun is shining. My first friend, who is clearly the more agreeable of the two declares that “it’s a lovely day”. My other friend shakes his head and says “it’s too hot”. Again, there’s one objective reality, yet it’s splintered into two subjective parallel realities.
We’re forever flitting between the objective and subjective levels of reality. We do it so subtly and imperceptibly, at the drop of a hat. Without even having to think about it, the cake becomes ‘yummy’ or ‘yucky’ and the weather becomes ‘lovely’ to ‘too hot’. It’s really not the cake or the weather that we’re experiencing, it’s our thoughts about them that we’re experiencing.
The nature of thought and experience
This in itself isn’t a great problem. We all have our own likes, dislikes and conditioned responses, so the way that I might interpret a certain experience or situation will be different from the way that you interpret it. You say tomayto, I say tomato.
The problem is when our thoughts, interpretations and projections cause us to suffer. This happens when we interpret reality in painful, self-limiting, dysfunctional and destructive ways. When we have a limiting self image and think of ourselves as being worthless and inadequate little worms, or have a distorted view of the world and the nature reality, we suffer immensely.
Remember, these are just own own personal, subjective interpretations. It’s almost certainly a fact that such notions are not shared by everyone else, so they do not belong to the objective world, which is defined as empirical reality. We’re no longer in touch with reality. We’re lost in the realms of pratibhasika, the subjective, illusory reality—and we don’t even know it. As far as we’re concerned, that rope is a snake, that cake is horrible and the weather is too hot. Even worse, we’re maybe certain that we are unworthy, inadequate little losers, that our significant others are jerks and the world is a terrible place to be.
Our projections become our ‘reality’. This is caused by mistaking our thoughts for reality. These thoughts are the building block of our constructed reality and form the walls of our mental prison.
Next up: The experience equation!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this Tao Te Ching series, so here we go again–and with a cute baby too! If you can’t wait to read more, all 81 verses plus commentary are now available in a collected volume available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook format.
– 55 –
One who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
The infant is protected from insects,
wild beasts and birds of prey.
Bones are soft, muscles are weak
yet its grasp is firm and strong.
Though its mind is innocent,
its body is virile,
so intense is its vital power.
It can cry all day without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.
The child is one with the Tao,
living within harmony and grace.
This is why the child
finds eternity within a single day.
To know harmony is to know the Changeless;
to know the Changeless is to have insight.
The Sage understands that when something
reaches its prime
it will soon begin to decline.
To unnaturally try to extend life is not the Tao.
And whatever is against the Tao soon ceases to be.
A newborn baby or young child is a perfect example of one who is in perfect harmony with the Tao. An infant cannot help but be at one with life, for its mind has yet to develop and attempt to take over the show. The infant does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. Its body is soft, flexible and weak, and yet contains tremendous power (sometimes when a baby or toddler grabs your hand it’s amazing how much strength they possess). The child has a great deal of integrity; there is no holding back, no role-playing, no getting lost in thought and conceptualisation—that will all come later, for better or worse.
The child expresses itself unreservedly, unapologetically, without any hesitation. It can be tremendously enlightening just watching a young child, for they live in a state of freedom and approach life with a great deal of immediacy and freshness. Until the ego develops and the child gets lost in a sense of “I”, “me” and “mine”, it approaches life effortlessly and largely without desire and preconception. Time is meaningless to the infant; the child lives entirely in the present moment, not yet lost in the mind-created concepts of past and future.
Lao Tzu advises us to “know the Changeless” as we progress through life and experience the inherently changeful nature of phenomenal existence. In spite of all the immeasurable changes that are forever occurring in and around us, what never changes? It’s worth spending time pondering this question. The answer is only within. Are you aware of the Changeless, or the ‘constant’ as some translations call it? Is it possible to be rooted in that?
Because the Sage is rooted in the Changeless, he is unafraid of outward changes. He lets all things come and go as they please, holding on to nothing. He has no expectations, no desires, no need to cling to the temporal. Thus is his spirit immortal and unchanging.
Originally posted on The Dreamlight Fugitive:
This week I released my first short story in over two years!
The provocatively-titled Kill The Past, Destroy The World is a prelude to my upcoming novel, The Key of Alanar. It tells the story of Mailyn, an embittered sorceress who returns to her homeland, determined to settle some old scores and seek revenge for the sins of the past. Guided by mysterious beings she believes to be ‘angels’, Mailyn is part of a dangerous plot that could spell the end for an entire world. Determined to set Alanar alight with the fire of the angels, only one man, the High Priest Ardonis, can stand against her and prevent her from unleashing a planetary apocalypse.
I found it a fascinating story to write, allowing me to explore the darker side of human nature, questioning what exactly makes a bad person ‘bad’. As a social science graduate, I learned years ago that human nature…
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Things I Wish I’d Known About Writing From the Start, Part 1: In Order to Write Well, You Have to Write a Lot
Originally posted on The Dreamlight Fugitive:
Hi everyone! This is the first in a series of short blogs in which I’m going to share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years as a writer.
My journey to being a published author wasn’t always an easy one. In retrospect a lot of that was down to the fact I wasn’t approaching things with the right mindset. I’m naturally quite an idealistic and romantic person and looking back I can see how this, coupled with an unrealistic perception of the writing industry, a streak of crippling perfectionism and self-doubt, sabotaged my writing career for at least a decade. If I knew then what I now know, it would all have been so much easier!
The first thing I wish I knew back then was simply this: no one is born a good writer. Sure, some people do exhibit greater natural skill at writing that others. In school I was always praised for my…
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This is the first in a series of articles that will form the basis of a book to be published later in the year. It is about Jailbreaking the mind — everything I’ve ever learned about understanding the mind, overcoming psychological suffering and being free!
The wound is the place where the Light enters you – Rumi
No one escapes suffering in life. It’s simply not possible. It’s an unavoidable byproduct of being alive, and one of the most fundamental aspects of human experience. The very act of birth is suffering, and sooner or later every human being will grow to experience pain in many forms, from the stress of modern life, relationship difficulties, bereavements and eventually sickness, infirmity and death. Alas, it’s all part and parcel of being human.
While there’s no getting around that fact, there are ways to transcend it, to deal with the difficulties we face and to rise up from the ashes–stronger, wiser and more powerful, resilient and happier than before. Throughout history, attempts have been made to understand and offer solutions to this core human predicament. This has been the province of philosophers and theists for thousands of years, and in recent times modern psychologists too.
There’s a wealth of information, knowledge and support out there. But it’s still up to each individual to find, understand and apply that knowledge, and to dig the way out of the dungeon of our own mind, bit by bit. And that’s where many of us have been going wrong. We simply haven’t been trained to do so; to understand how the mind works, how thought generates emotion and how to keep it all in check.
Two types of suffering
There are two basic types of suffering. Understanding this is an important key to freedom. The first is the natural suffering that is an inevitable part of life and the second is the unnatural, mind-made suffering that is generated by our thoughts, beliefs and interpretations of life. Based on terms by psychologist Steven Hayes, I talk about this as ‘clean pain’ and ‘dirty pain’. The first is experienced by all living beings and includes experiences such as loss, sickness, old age and death. Although often very painful, a person with a healthy psychology is able to deal with the experience and move on from it in a reasonable space of time.
Dirty pain however is unique to human beings and is an entirely mind-generated suffering. Whereas clean pain generally resolves by itself, dirty pain can be a never-ending nightmare. It has the power to consume us and cause a lifetime of aguish and suffering.
Although it may have been triggered by an external experience, dirty pain is generated and sustained entirely by thought. It is subjective and interpretative rather than objective. It stems from the mind and can only be corrected on the level of the mind. It manifests in a number of different ways, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, resentment and many other neuroses.
Modern society is failing us
The way human suffering is dealt with in modern society is wholly inadequate. While we have developed some excellent tools and therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, generally when someone goes to their doctor with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, they are given drugs that may at best numb the feelings, but will do nothing to tackle the root cause.
Recent studies have actually shown that antidepressants are barely any more effective than placebos, which has obviously caused great concern in the medical community—although it certainly hasn’t stopped widespread prescription of what might as well be sugar pills (and which would certainly have fewer side-effects).
In a stroke of genius, the pharmaceutical industry managed to propagate the chemical imbalance theory. This is the notion that depression and other mental/emotional issues are a biological disease that could only be cured by taking whatever medication they have to offer. But as Dr Ronald Pies, editor of The Psychiatric Times stated, “in truth the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend—never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists”.
While many people feel notion that depression is a disease notion takes the social stigma out of what is already a deeply painful and very real condition, it played right into the hands of the profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry and is also entirely disempowering. Brain chemistry is not something that is set in stone. It’s constantly changing, moment by moment. Every thought that we think actually changes the chemistry of the brain! So the idea that we need drugs to do that is laughable. Change your patterns of thinking and you literally change your brain.
There is a way out
There is a way out of depression and other forms of mental and emotional suffering— and I speak from experience. In our culture we like things to be easy and swift, and we’re trained to expect instant gratification, so simply popping a pill every morning obviously has great appeal. But it’s certainly not an answer to the problem; at the very best it might help us ignore the underlying issue.
The way out of psychological suffering is actually pretty simple. It’s based on knowledge—knowledge of what drives the mind and our entire experience of life. But it does require work and consistent effort. It requires getting down into the trenches and having the courage to question all kinds of deeply-held thoughts, beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and about life. When any mechanical apparatus ceases to function the way it should, what do we do? We don’t try to mask the problem or patch it up in the vain hope it will get better. We have to actually take it apart and develop an understanding of how it works and how to fix it.
The tendency of the mind is to project the root of our problems onto external factors, but the truth is the large part of human suffering is generated by the mind. We’re in a prison of our own mind’s making. The mind spins a subjective reality that sucks us in, causing an incredible amount of needless pain and suffering, not just for ourselves but also others.
Stay tuned over the next few months for what will essentially be a crash course in understanding how the mind works, how it creates our suffering, and how to break free of it.